11 Parks Perfect to Perch for Bird-Watching

January 5, 2018Pursuits
Nēnē at Haleakalā National Park — National Park Service

Lucifer hummingbird, piping plover, elegant trogon — rare birds like these take bird-watchers to all kinds of far-flung places. Are you looking for some of the best locations to spot birds of every kind? National parks, which preserve an incredible range of landscapes and habitats, are some of the best places in America for bird-watching!

Maryland’s Forests of Flight

White and grey tufted titmouse on a branch with a leaf in its mouth

Tufted titmouse

National Park Service

Every year, between 41 and 59 distinct bird species are spotted within Catoctin Mountain Park, including some considered “watch list species” by Partners in Flight. Forests and streams create the perfect conditions for the many birds spotted in the park, including wild turkeys, which returned to this park in the 1960s. The most common birds in the park include the threatened wood thrush, red-eyed vireo, and scarlet tanager.

Birds Amidst the Barren Lava Flow

Small brown colaptes auratus sitting on a volcanic rock at Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve

Northern flicker (Colaptes auratus)

National Park Service

The brilliant colors of the mountain bluebird are a common sight against the dark volcanic rock of Idaho’s Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve. Shrublands and rocky terrain are no barrier for the many birds found almost exclusively in this somewhat desolate landscape. More than 200 bird species have been identified in the park, many of them drawn to water sources in this otherwise-dry region. 

Vibrant Plumage in an Exotic Place

Red scarlet honeycreeper sitting on a branch at Haleakala National Park

Scarlet honeycreeper

Carole Crist, Share the Experience

Travelling some 2,500 to Hawai'i is no easy task for a bird. Those that survived the trip evolved into new species, found nowhere else in the world. Today, about half of Hawai'i’s native bird species are extinct. However, Haleakalā National Park offers a chance to see some of the rare, exotic species like the endangered Hawaiian short-eared owl, as well as several colorful species of honeycreepers.

See Flying Friends as You Float on the River

The back of a red-winged blackbird crowing at Mississippi National River and Recreation Area

Red-winged blackbird

National Park Service

The Mississippi River forms the central corridor of one of America's great flyways. It also provides birds with plenty of food, water, and shelter. Take a river trip through Mississippi National River and Recreation Area to see dozens of unique species, including water birds like the belted kingfisher, American coot, and great egret.

Owls and Ornithology in Washington State

Brown and white spotted owl sitting on a branch at Mount Rainier National Park

Spotted owl

Emily Brouwer/NPS

Changing altitudes in different areas of Mount Rainier National Park mean correspondingly varied types of birds. The northern spotted owl, while increasingly rare, is one of the most spectacular birds that you might see here in its natural habitat. Keep an eye out for more common residents like Steller’s jay, sooty grouse, ptarmigan, and varied thrush. 

A Wisconsin Pitstop

Small white and brown piping plover on the shore at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore

Piping plover

Ryan Brady/NPS

Providing islands to rest upon during migrations in the Great Lakes Region, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore creates an essential refuge for birds traveling over Lake Superior. Endangered piping plovers call the islands home, along with great blue heron, double-crested cormorants, and many others. Each year, many neotropical land birds, migrating to Central and South America, can also be spotted breeding and passing through.

Riparian Environments and Resident Wrens

Red and blue Western Bluebird sitting on a branch at Montezuma Castle National Monument

Western bluebird

National Park Service

More than 200 bird species inhabit Montezuma Castle National Monument, and while many of these birds are only seen during breeding season, you'll find lots of year-round residents as well — especially in riparian habitats near water sources. Gambel's quail are common along hiking trails, especially in the morning and birds like Bewick’s wrens and mourning doves can be spotted throughout the park. The Sonoran Desert Network even created a bird checklist to download before you visit the park.

A Birder’s Haven on the Water

Yellow-headed white and black chestnut-sided warbler at Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway

Chestnut-sided warbler

Marlene Trapp/NPS

From pied-billed grebes along the shore of Namekagon Lake to bald eagles at Stevens Creek Landing, more than 240 species have been seen at Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway. If you’re seeking a wide range of bird-watching opportunities, look no further than this unique park. Each season and area of the park provides the opportunity to spot different types of birds – perfect for novice birders or experts!

Avian Diversity in Southeast Arizona

brown ad white spotted Montezuma quail at Chiricahua National Monument

Montezuma quail

National Park Service

Known for its avian diversity, Chiricahua National Monument is the ideal place to cross a few rare birds off your list. These include the elegant trogon with its brilliant red, black, and white plumage, and 13 hummingbird species, some of them seldom seen in the U.S. In fact, the area is so rich in birds that the American Bird Conservancy has identified it and surrounding sites as an “important bird area.”

A Park with Puffins

Black, white, and blue magpie at Katmai National Park & Preservce

Magpie

National Park Service

On the northern Alaska Peninsula, Katmai National Park & Preserve harbors year-round residents such as redpolls, great horned owls, bald eagles, gray jays, and magpies. Spawning salmon attract ducks and scavengers like ravens. Meanwhile, along the coast, tufted puffins are not an uncommon sight. Diversity is greatest during spring and summer. 

Sharp-Shinned Hawks in Their Habitat

Brown and white California quail standing on a rock in the brush at Lava Beds National Monument

California quail

N Ramierez/NPS

Three unique habitats forming Lava Beds National Monument mean a wide variety of birds can be found within the park. The southern ponderosa pine forests are home to the beautiful white-headed woodpecker and dark-eyed junco, while the juniper and shrub woodlands farther north provide habitat for the purple martin, scrub jay, and lazuli bunting. Visit this California park to experience this birder’s delight for yourself.

Enjoy the incredible bird-watching opportunities at your national parks! With hundreds of parks, and even more types of birds, you’re bound to have an excellent birding trip. Grab your binoculars and use the National Park Foundation's travel planner to locate and #FindYourPark / #EncuentraTuParque.


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